Hello! This page is currently under construction – just like the Renfrew Mill.
Please check back often as we add more information about this exciting project!
Artist’s rendition of how the Royer Gristmill, standing 1807-1895, may have appeared while in use. Original watercolor by Clyde Roberts, 1991. Renfrew Museum Collection.
Royer Gristmill (1807-1895)
The Royer gristmill, a three-story structure built by Pennsylvania German tanner Daniel Royer in 1807 of stone, brick, and wood, was originally located at the southern end of the farmstead on the west bank of Little Antietam Creek. It operated as a mill until the 1870s when Royer’s grandson, A.J. Fahnestock, tried unsuccessfully to turn the building into a creamery when many area farms were making the switch to commercial dairy production. Razed by the subsequent owner, Dr. Abraham Strickler, in the early twentieth century, the old mill is now a stone ruin, measuring approximately 50′ x 50′ .
Many visitors to Renfrew have wondered at its foundation, trying to imagine what it may have looked like and how it worked. Two 14-foot overshot wheels powered two sets of grindstones: one set for milling grain and one set for inedible industrial materials, such as tanbark and lime, used in the leather tanning process. A milldam, near the footbridge to the Royer house at the northern end of the farmstead, diverted water into a 1,200 foot long headrace. The water dropped from the millrace onto the overwheels providing the force to turn the gears that operated the millstones. After passing over the wheels, the water was channeled back into the creek through a 1,000 foot long tailrace.
New Renfrew Mill to be Constructed!
Renfrew Museum and Park is pleased to share its plans for reconstruction of the mill near its original site. The proposal for constructing a full-scale, operational interpretive structure has been a goal in Renfrew’s strategic plan for some time, with significant development toward realization taking place over the last several years. With financial commitment from our generous benefactor, James Luty, Renfrew researched and adopted a feasibility study prepared by architect Don Smith which was approved by Waynesboro Borough Council in 2019.
The project is proposed in two phases: first to erect a three-story structure and pump house about fifty feet from the original foundation, then for historic millwright Gus Kiorpes and his team to custom-build wooden millworks, bringing the whole operation to life!
The original Royer Gristmill is an extremely important feature currently missing from Renfrew’s historic landscape. Its significance to the development of the site as both an industrial and agricultural center cannot be overemphasized. The physical presence of a mill structure, combined with the sensory experience of hearing and seeing the actual moving millworks, has the power to transport visitors back in time. A full-scale, operational structure will aid guests’ understanding of the milling process in a real, tangible way that photographs, models, or engravings could never offer. Reconstruction of the new Renfrew Mill near the archeological ruins of the historic Royer Mill, and close to Fahnestock Farmstead, will not only fill in the visual gaps and enhance interpretation of Renfrew’s story, but has possibilities to serve our audiences in many other ways. The rebirth of Renfrew’s lost gristmill in its new form has the potential to give the Waynesboro community, and its many outside visitors, and exceptional experience that, when combined with our site’s other offerings, helps to foster a life-long appreciation for the agricultural and industrial heritage of this special place.
Renfrew Museum and Park Receives Funding For Construction of Gristmill Replica
Renfrew Museum and Park and the Borough of Waynesboro were notified of a $1,000,000 award from the Pennsylvania Office of the Budget Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) to support the Renfrew Gristmill Reconstruction Project on April 22, 2022.
Renfrew Museum and Park (Renfrew), publicly owned by the Borough, is a historic treasure in Southcentral Pennsylvania with a mission to preserve, enhance, promote, and interpret the Royer family Pennsylvania German Farmstead, the Nicodemus and Bell collections, and the surrounding park. Since 1975, visitors have been exploring how the agriculture, industry, and domestic life of over 200 years ago worked together to make a prosperous Pennsylvania German farmstead at Renfrew. Since inception, research and restoration have expanded the scope of the site to include a Visitors Center in the Victorian period barn, smokehouse, milkhouse, and the Fahnestock farmstead with its barn and house.
The original gristmill is an extremely important feature currently missing from Renfrew’s historic landscape. The proposal for constructing an operational mill has been a goal in Renfrew’s strategic plan for several years and was the focus of a 2019 Gristmill Feasibility Study.
The physical presence of an interpretive mill structure, combined with the sensory experience of hearing and seeing the actual moving millworks, has the power to transport visitors back in time to the 1800’s. A full-scale operation will aid guests’ understanding of the process of milling grain or tanning leather using the hydropower of the Little Antietam Creek.
Renfrew Executive Director Becky LaBarre explained, “The new Renfrew Mill building, to be located north of the ruins of the historic Royer Mill, will be a three-story structure with fully functioning millworks driven by a single waterwheel. The project is proposed in two phases. First, we will erect a three-story structure and pump house about fifty feet from the original foundation. Then historic millwright Gus Kiorpes and his team will custom-build wooden millworks, bringing the whole operation to life. To date, Renfrew has already sourced a wonderful pair of historic grindstones.”
Borough Manager Jason Stains said, “GMS Funding Solutions worked with the Borough and Renfrew to create a timely public funding strategy, which ultimately turned out to be a very successful plan for the Gristmill project.”
“The rebirth of Renfrew’s lost gristmill in its new form has the potential to enhance the interpretation of Renfrew’s story and to give the Waynesboro community, and Renfrew’s estimated 75,000 visitors, an exceptional interpretive experience,” noted Dade Royer, an eighth-generation descendant of the Royer family and current Renfrew President. When combined with the museum and park’s other offerings, the new site will help to foster a life-long appreciation for the agricultural and industrial heritage of the region and attract even more tourists to Renfrew and the Waynesboro community.
RACP grant funding for this project is provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Honorable Tom Wolf, Governor.
Please send any questions or comments to Borough Manager Jason Stains at Jason@waynesboropa.org.
Nose to the Grindstone: Mill Project Update, March 2022
Renfrew’s Mill Committee and its professional design team have been hard at work over the past year, finalizing drawings and gaining approvals for the proposed construction of a full-scale, working mill. Special thanks to all those who have served during this critical period of decision-making and plan submission. We would especially like to recognize our generous donor, Jim Luty, and the founding members of the Mill Committee: Dade Royer, Chair, Doug Parks, Don Smith (architectural consultant), and Will Sheppard (archeological consultant), Brendan Bishop and the team of Triad Engineering, along with newer committee members Becky and Steve LaBarre (staff), Harold Mumma and Kari Saavedra (RCI board members), and Mark McLaughlin who all have guided the project along to this point. Renfrew greatly appreciates the support of our community as well!
We are now very happy to announce that the project has cleared municipal permitting and is entering the early construction phase! Our project manager, Don Smith of Archinet, LLC, is currently assembling requests for proposal (RFP) and we anticipate going out to bid for a general contractor very soon. Ahead of final selection of the construction team, preparatory work this spring will include trenching for utilities by the Borough of Waynesboro, along with shovel tests and archeological monitoring by Will Sheppard at the site of the new mill foundation and utilities trench.
Visitors to Renfrew’s grounds should be prepared for active construction this season, which may result in closure and/or detours of some trails. Signage will be placed around the park and project information will be shared on this page as it is made available. We ask you to please pardon our mess and be patient with us as Renfrew embarks on this very exciting addition to the farmstead. We can’t wait to share it with you!